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Dining Out with Youngsters

On the Menu
The kids may order the same things every time they go out to eat, but not you. You're looking for something delicious and nutritious. Make sure you pass over high-fat options including onion soup, Caesar salad, taco salad, mashed potatoes, fried chicken strips or nuggets, coleslaw, Cobb salad, broccoli-and-cheese-stuffed potatoes, and scones.

Avoid the pitfalls of a variety of cuisines with these helpful hints.

Flagging Fat
Restaurant food isn't always what it seems. Broiled fish sounds like it's designed for people watching their waistlines, but it can be smothered in butter or margarine when it arrives at your table. The pasta primavera that sounds so healthy could come tossed in a cheese sauce. It pays to learn the lingo and to ask questions about how your food is prepared. These menu terms translate into high-fat fare:

  • Basted
  • Batter dipped
  • Buttery
  • Creamy
  • Crispy
  • Deep fried
  • Grande
  • Pan fried
  • Parmesan
  • Supreme

Chinese
Think Chinese food is light? Not always. Many popular dishes are full of hidden fat.

Problems

  • Copious quantities of oil in stir-fries and in deep fat frying
  • High-fat meats such as spare ribs and fried chicken or shrimp
Solutions
  • Share the calories. Split entrees.
  • Use chopsticks so you'll eat slowly. Teach your kids how to use them, too.
  • Ask your server to have the chef prepare your food with a minimum of oil.
  • Order steamed rice instead of fried rice and noodle dishes.
  • Try tofu dishes, but not if the tofu is deep-fried.
  • Go for entrees packing chicken, bean curd (tofu), or seafood and an abundance of vegetables.
Italian

Problems

  • Large portions
  • Lots of cheese
  • Liberal use of olive oil
Solutions
  • Split entrees.
  • Order plainer items such as pasta with marinara sauce, grilled fish, or roasted or grilled chicken, or lighter veal dishes such as veal marsala.
  • Order plenty of fresh vegetables.
  • Take it easy on the olive oil.
  • Go for cappuccino over cannoli or tiramisu for dessert.
Fast Food
Fast food is attractive to families. It's cheap and it's fast, but it's hardly healthy, as a rule.

Problems

  • Supersize meals are tempting because you get more for your money.
  • Fish and chicken sandwiches are nearly always fried, and so are chicken nuggets or chicken strips.
  • Overall, fast food fare packs excessive amounts of calories, fat, and sodium.
Solutions
  • Seek out fast food joints with healthier offerings, including chili, baked potatoes, and salads.
  • Downsize your meal. Think of the size of fries you want, then go one size lower. Ditto for drinks, unless it's milk or juice.
  • Purchase a supersize meal and have children share it.
  • Add a salad with low-calorie dressing.
Mexican
Take a few of the chips awaiting you at the table and ask to have the rest removed. That way, no one will be too full for dinner.

Problems

  • Packed with cheese and high-fat guacamole
  • Much of the food is high-fat because it is fried
  • Few fresh vegetables
Solutions
  • Order bean soup or chili and a dinner salad.
  • Skip condiments such as sour cream, and try to pull off most of the cheese.
  • Stick with bean and chicken enchiladas or burritos, fajitas, and tacos.
  • Forgo dessert unless you plan to split it at least four ways.
Pizza
Friday nights are pizza night at our house. The kids really look forward to it, even Emma, who at eighteen months knows what pizza is and thoroughly enjoys it. Lucky for us, our kids favor cheese pizza, so it's easy to curb the calories contained in the deep-dish, stuffed-crust varieties and pizzas laden with meat. I always serve the children fruit or vegetables along with the pizza, and I encourage them to drink milk or juice with the meal. Tom and I eat a large green salad with low-fat dressing to avoid overdoing it on the pizza.

Problems

  • Fatty toppings and crusts
  • Large portions
Solutions
  • Order thin-crust pizzas topped with vegetables instead of fatty meats.
  • Have fruit or vegetables with your meal to curb pizza consumption.
Thai
Like Chinese fare, Thai food is served family style, making it perfect for sharing, which can conserve calories.

Problems

  • Curry. It's made with coconut milk, which is very high in total and saturated fat.
  • Lard, also laden with saturated fat, is often used to prepare traditional Thai foods.
  • Peanut sauce and chopped peanuts abound in Thai cuisine, which is a threat to children and adults who are allergic.
Solutions
  • Share your entree with other family members.
  • Choose chicken, seafood, and bean curd dishes that aren't smothered in curry or peanut sauce.
  • Avoid Thai iced coffee and Thai iced tea as they contain cream and sugar.
Takeout Trends
It's 4:00 P.M. Do you have a clue what to serve for dinner? If you're like most American adults, the answer is no. According to a Survey conducted by Restaurants and Institutions, 71 percent of us don't bother planning the evening meat much before late afternoon, which may account for another finding: Dinner is four times as likely as lunch to be taken out of the restaurant and eaten at home. For busy families, takeout fare and food delivered directly to your door fills in for home-based meal planning and preparation a good deal of the time. When the kids are clamoring for food, you need a speedy dinner. But take care. According to the USDA, on the whole, food made outside of the home contains more fat and saturated fat and less of the beneficial calcium, fiber, and iron that kids need.

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Copyright © 2002 by Elizabeth M. Ward. Excerpted from Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.


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